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Tragic end for Coldstream Victoria Cross recipient


neverforget
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Just came across this and it really upset me. Having to bite my tongue now, but I will say "Shame !" :poppy:

Thomas Whitham VC (11 May 1888, Worsthorne, Lancashire – 22 October 1924, Oldham) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. In recognition of his achievements Burnley Schools' Sixth Form was renamed in his honour "Thomas Whitham Sixth Form."

War service

On 25 January 1915, Whitham enlisted in the British Army. He was 29 years old, and a private in the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 31 July 1917 at Pilkem near Ypres, Belgium, during an attack an enemy machine-gun was seen to be enfilading the battalion on the right. Private Whitham on his own initiative immediately worked his way from shell-hole to shell-hole through our own barrage, reached the machine-gun and, although under very heavy fire captured it, together with an officer and two other ranks. This bold action was of great assistance to the battalion and undoubtedly saved many lives.[1]

Post war

After the war he became a bricklayer but times were hard and he had been rejected for other jobs by the Burnley council even though he had served his king and country in the Great War and had won the VC. He was forced to sell his VC and a gold watch that had been presented to him by the council in recognition of his bravery. Both ended up in a pawn shop but were rescued by the council and remain in the Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museums in Burnley. His VC, along with other items, are on display at Towneley. Thomas died in poverty aged 36. It wasn't until 1952 that a memorial was built for him by the Coldstream Guards just outside Burnley.

In 2008, it was announced that Burnley Schools' Sixth Form would be renamed 'Thomas Whitham Sixth Form'.

His grand-son was professional footballer Jack Whitham.

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I do hope my comments are not taken the wrong way, however, I find this topic interesting. It shows how attitudes change have changed. . In his post war life, it seems he could not catch a break, but in death, he is touted as a hero. Odd.

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It is funny that this was put on the forum today as I was reading a book which I obtained from a book sale at N. lancashire branch.

The book Devotion To duty- Tributes to a Regions VC. (Greater Manchester) by James Bancroft published in 1990 ISBN 1-872619-00-2.

The story is as you say,however not finding work in his home town he had to move in1920 to Egremont in Cumbria to obtain bricklying employment. This lasted until 1924 when the money forthe scheme for house building ran out and he was again unemployed. He traveled the area on his bicycle insearch of work,and as he was riding through Windermere he ran in to a wallsuffering head injuries. The doctor who attended to him advised him to stop and rest, but he had no money and had to continue on his journey. The great effort caused a loss of memory and he disappeared.

With two children with pneumonia , husband vanished, his wife moved back to Burnley to live with their grand father.With the help of the press she tried to find her husband and was finally tracked down to lodgings in Liverpool and she received letter from him. Work was one again gained in Gatley,Manchester. On 10th October 1924 he was admitted in to Oldham Royal Infirmary suffering from severe complications and in a state of extreem poverty. He subsequently died of peritonitis 22nd October 1924. He was burried with military honours at Ingamite Burial Ground Wheatley lane, Nelson- grave 9-114. It is said that thousands attended.

The VC and Gold watch, which had been presented by Burnley Council some time after 17th October 1917 was bought off the Pawnbroker for £50.00.- His 1914 Star,& British war medal are presumed lost.

In 1952 theColdstream Guards association held a service of thanks giving and dedicated a headstone at his grave. In April 1988 the headstone and surrounds were restored to thier original condition.

It is indeed a sad story

Richard

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Many thanks for taking the trouble to put meat on the bones of the story. The fuller picture is indeed an even more tragic one. I find the thought of any of those poor lads having to sell their medals to put food on the table most appalling. Breaks my heart to think about it. Time to bite the old tongue again.

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He is actually entitled to a 1914/15 Star - I always thought all but his victory where lost ?

RIP :poppy:

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It`s good to see he was remembered in the end. Thanks for taking the trouble to post the pictures.

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